Three proposed school changes for Bridgend

(Pic: © Copyright Jaggery and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.)

The process of school modernisation continues in Bridgend County, and three significant ones have emerged in the least few weeks and months (Items 14,15 & 16). Bridgend Council’s cabinet have released the results of consultations on the three.

To BCBC’s credit, and to the shame of other rather backward, repressive and dictatorial regimes in Wales at the moment, they’ve even included transcripts of the consultation meetings.

Unrelated – but possibly affecting this – Parents for Welsh Medium Education (RhAG) recently re-established a branch for Bridgend, and are looking to assess parental demand for WM education in the area, as the existing (four) WM primary schools in the county are oversubscribed.

Coety Primary

As you probably know, there’s a 1,500-home “urban village” (Parc Derwen) currently being constructed on the outskirts of Coity to the north east of Bridgend town. When the development brief for Parc Derwen was approved, there was a condition, agreed with developers, that as soon as ~300 homes were constructed, a new school would need to be provided on the site.

I’m not sure if that condition could be interpreted to include the relocation of Coety Primary, which is what BCBC have decided. As an interim measure, Coety Primary is being temporarily expanded to provide schooling for pupils resident on Parc Derwen. I think there’s about 200 completed homes at the moment, with another 200 or so awaiting planning approval.

So, the existing Coety Primary will close, and move to a larger school at Parc Derwen, which will open circa September 2015. The report says that BCBC have an agreement in principle on funding a new school with the Welsh Government.

BCBC’s consultation was ultimately about how big that new school needs to be. The existing Coety Primary is a small village school of around 150 pupils. The new school will be a significant urban EM primary with the capacity for around 480 pupils.

As you might expect, there are concerns about moving pupils and staff from a small school to a large school. There were also concerns raised about a “Maes-yr-Haul situation” developing (explained later), but the Parc Derwen development is capped at 1,500 houses.

Ysgol Bryn Castell & Pupil Referral Unit

Ysgol Bryn Castell is one of Bridgend’s two SEN schools, currently based in Cefn Glas in a rather run down, 1950s-60s building. The county’s Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) is based on a small site in Aberkenfig.

Ogmore Ynysawdre comprehensives merged to form Coleg Cymunedol Y Dderwen, and are in the process of moving to a new campus, which is currently under construction, and due to open September 2013.

The Ogmore Comprehensive school site, in Brynmenyn, has subsequently become vacant. BCBC intend to move Ysgol Bryn Castell and the PRU there in Sep. 2014 , after some building modifications (estimated to cost £3.5million). Many Ysgol Bryn Castell pupils live closer to the Ogmore site anyway, and the consultation says pupils are “excited” by the prospect of a move. Modern sports facilities in the area, such as Ynysawdre swimming pool, are also highlighted as a plus point.

Both would remain separate institutions, with some segregation between the two, but share the site. There were concerns raised that surplus playing fields at Ogmore could be disposed of, and the possibility of staff redundancies.

It’s also unclear what would happen to the existing Ysgol Bryn Castell site. The consultation responses state it’s “likely to be sold off”, but that it isn’t “prime land”. I presume it would be used for housing in the medium term. I also think it could be a potential site of a second WM primary in Bridgend town itself, to take pressure off the EM schools in west Bridgend (like Maes-yr-Haul), and Ysgol Bro Ogwr. I’m sure once there are any sort of concrete plans, they’ll be covered on Syniadau.

Bryntirion Juniors merger with Llangewydd Juniors

I don’t know how, or why, this happened, but Bryntirion Juniors and Llangewydd Juniors are two separate schools that currently share the same site. That, in itself, seems strange to me, and this merger must’ve been on the cards some considerable time, surely? I’m surprised it’s taken this long, to be frank.

Bryntirion Juniors’ intake is from Bryntirion Infants, while Llangewydd’s are from Cefn Glas Infants. Once merged, both infants schools would feed into the new Llangewydd Junior.

Bryntrion Juniors have been praised by Estyn for their work with pupils with additional learning needs, but pupil numbers have fallen far enough for BCBC to press forward with a merger. BCBC say it would save £93,000. Bryntirion Juniors is also said to have a budget deficit, but, suspiciously, no similar figures have been released for Llangewydd Junior. This deficit will carry over to the new school.

They argue that 315 pupils on roll isn’t enough to split between two schools, and compared to other schools in the county, BCBC are right. They only have funding for one teacher per 29 pupils, but shutting a school is an emotive issue wherever you are.

By law you cannot merge schools (the Welsh Government’s School Organisation Bill is making some changes here, but it won’t be passed by the Assembly until at least 2013). So, Bryntirion Juniors has to close completely. It means all of Bryntirion Junior’s staff will be made redundant and have to re-apply for any new roles that arise at Llangewydd.

There have been concerns about “loss of identity”, and the fact there’ll be a Bryntirion Comprehensive, Bryntirion Infants, but no Bryntirion Junior. Llangewydd’s governors are reported to be considering a re-branding.

There were also questions raised about Maes-yr-Haul Primary. That school became oversubscribed as twice the number of houses were built at Broadlands than originally planned for. Pupils in the north-west of Broadlands will now have to go to Trelales Primary in Laleston in future. Some wonder why the excess weren’t transferred to Bryntirion Juniors to boost pupil numbers which is, in some cases, closer than Trelales, and safer to reach.